Sovereign States Can No Longer Rely on CITES

A re-blog of the article Time for Southern Africa to ditch CITES published in The Herald of 4 January 2019

By Emmanuel Koro

If CITES — the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species — did not exist we would want to invent it. This treaty was signed, and its secretariat authorised, in 1975 to regulate commerce in wild flora and fauna to prevent their extinction.

It was the proper step to take to stop indiscriminate and irreversible damage to wildlife species.

Over the years, however, the Geneva-based organisation charged with enforcing the treaty’s provisions has been hijacked by Western animal rights groups. Their goal is to block all forms of trade in wildlife products even in cases where it is scientifically justified. In particular, the CITES organisation has failed to serve Southern African countries, specifically with regard to their elephant and rhino populations. Therefore, CITES’ relevance to the member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on matters affecting these iconic species is now highly questionable.

CITES has frustrated many people in Southern Africa, ranging from presidents and government ministers to the leaders of the rural communities that live side-by-side with these animals.

The frustration is most palpable where rural communities pay the costs of living with wild animals without realising any of the benefits. Worse, the trade ban in elephant ivory and rhino products imposed at the insistence of the animal rights groups has neither stopped poaching nor diminished interest in the products, but it has eliminated local communities’ benefits from wildlife.

Ironically, trade bans only help to increase poaching. Professor Marshall Murphree writes in a recent issue of Conservation: “Everyone agrees that the illegal ivory trade continues despite the international trade ban. It has (in fact) been an abject failure. CITES has had 27 years to evaluate (this) experiment and, far from being part of the solution to illegal elephant killing in Africa, the ban must be seen as part of the problem.”

But this lesson has never been learned by the animal rights groups, some CITES member states or the CITES Secretariat because it is something they didn’t want to learn.

The animal rights groups attract enormous contributions from Western donors by claiming that donated money will stop poaching from driving iconic species into extinction.

Apart from paying big salaries for animal rights groups’ staff, the money also helps fund CITES delegates’ travel and member country involvement in CITES activities as well as Secretariat expenses. Little, if anything, goes towards protecting the animals.

This corrupt cycle will continue unless the countries, whose wildlife is suffering at the hands of CITES, are willing to end it.

Japan did just that in a recent decision to resign its membership in the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Japan saw how the big international non-governmental organisations influence the prevention of any form of trade in wild species — even where the evidence is clear that some whale species are no longer in danger. Japan will now resume whaling in its territorial and economic zone waters.

The countries of SADC should take the Japanese example to heart — declaring now that if CITES votes to enforce policies that individual SADC countries deem to have failed its wildlife, rural populations or national interests — they will in response refuse to abide by such harmful decisions.

“At every (major CITES) meeting the animal rights groups spend their time illegally ‘buying’ votes from sovereign states to the extent that they now control all the important issues on the agenda (either by means of outright bribery; or by means of ‘underwriting’ the delegates’ expenses at the convention),” said Ron Thomson, an ecologist and CEO of the South Africa-based True Green Alliance.

“Sovereign states can no longer rely on CITES for an honest outcome when it comes to ‘trade in wildlife’.”

If CITES continues to maintain a position that bans trade in elephants and rhino products, serious environmental damage will be done in the Southern African region.

If these keystone populations were to collapse, it could bring down the entire ecosystem that people depend on for their food and livelihoods.

“The reality in Africa is that no wildlife will survive this century unless its ‘needs’ are integrated with the ‘needs’ of Africa’s rural people in a state of symbiotic harmony,” said Mr. Thomson.

The CITES rhino and elephant “conservation ship” is sinking. Shouldn’t SADC countries work for its replacement or reform? If they don’t do something, their elephant and rhino populations will be victims of a now well-known and man-made wildlife die-off.

Responding to this danger, the world’s largest rhino breeder, South Africa-based John Hume said:

“At a certain point, sovereign countries need to do as Japan did to the IWC; ditch conservation partnerships that do not benefit their wildlife and the people.”

Will SADC countries make a courageous and principled decision before the CITES meeting in Sri Lanka in May 2019 that responds to the needs of their elephants, rhinos, and people? We hope so. Africa can no longer surrender its sovereignty to Western animal rights organisations that are intent on controlling its wildlife to support their fundraising interests.

Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist. He has written extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.


Time for Southern Africa to ditch CITES

2 thoughts on “Sovereign States Can No Longer Rely on CITES

    you always claim all hunting is for the good of communities people and conservation is bad.

    The Japanese government now heavily subsidizes whaling to the tune of $50 million a year.
    The typical Japanese attitude toward whaling as a political issue is ambivalent and whale meat as food is indifferent. Japan’s plan to kill 333 whales year is already drastically down from the previous annual target of 1,000. Most of the people in high levels of Japanese government are older men. Whale meat is on the decline, and 5000 tons is in stockpile.

    • Dear Nigel,
      Your personal opinions on the subject of Japan re-engaging in whaling in the southern Oceans are noted; and I  am sure they will be applauded by many uninformed people who want to stop ALL animal “uses’ by man (The animal rights groups) – without regard to any of the consequences.
      Japan has been appealing to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) for more than three decades to be allowed to engage in small-scale whaling operations controlled by the IWC Board. But, in all that time, the accredited animal rightists NGO at IWC have dominated IWC opinion – and they have adamantly refused to allow to IWC to consider Japan’s perfectly legitimate and understandable appeals for commonsense to prevail.  None of the Minke Whale populations that Japan intents to hunt – now – are in any way “endangered”.  Indeed, they have been expanding hugely in recent years.  And there is no scientific reason why they should NOT be harvested.  But the IWC – by allowing the animal rightist  NGOs to ‘capture” the IWC the way they have done over the last three decades – has been just too much for any sovereign state to bear.  It was clearly too much for Japan – who threw in the towel.  The NGOs have over-stepped the mark and Japan has said “ enough is enough” .  And there is NOTHING WRONG with what Japan is now setting out to do.  The TGA approves this development; and we congratulate Japan for having the intestinal fortitude to pull out of IWC.
      The TGA is now hoping  for the rest of the world to pull out of CITES, too – because within the convention the same animal rightist NGOS have turned CITES into something that CITES was not meant to be. They have turned CITES into a “prohibitionist” organisation (prohibiting the sustainable-use of the world’s living resources) rather than a “regulatory” one – and  other countries are starting to voice their objections to the what is happening in CITES, too.  CITES is prohibiting Africa’s people from using their own wildlife on a sustainable basis for their own survival.  Just the  same as has happened in the IWC.  So the fact that Japan has pulled out of the IWC does not surprise me; and I approve this action greatly.
      Both the IWC and CITES are organisations that SHOULD BE attending to the interests of their sovereign state members – NOT to the doctrinaire whims of the animal rightists – and neither organisation (in recent years) has paid enough attention the requirements of their sovereign state members.  And the TGA is encouraging all responsible states to leave both IWC and CITES – for exactly the same reasons. Africa has NOTHING to thank CITES for (since 1975).  CITES has done NOTHING to help the countries of Africa to set up symbiotic and sustainable-wildlife-use programmes that will give the people of Africa a “great need” to WANT to look after their wildlife resource. Instead CITES has listened to the animal rightist NGOs who are nothing more than “fraudsters”; Racketeers; and which comprise one of the biggest organised crime syndicates that the world has ever known. If you don’t believe me, look up the AMERICAN RICO Act  and make up your own mind on the validity of that statement. 
      YOU may not agree to the Japanese people eating whale meat. But in Japan whale meat is a staple part of their diet. I don’t know where you get the idea that whale meat is becoming no longer popular in Japan.  What would YOU do, if Japan (somehow) was able to stop the catching of prawns or fish in the sea? Japan, like Norway and Iceland, cannot grow enough food to feed its population.  They HAVE to ‘harvest from the sea’.  And they are sufficiently intelligent to know that they cannot and should not ‘over-harvest’ these natural resources.
      So, Nigel.  “Get with it”.  And interpret each ‘issue’ on its own merits.  Don’t just listen to the animal rights’ argument – which is designed NOT to help wildlife but to make money for the NGO (for their own coffers). 
      The TGA has NEVER said that “conservation” is BAD; nor have we said that all hunting is GOOD.  What we HAVE said it that all living organisms are “products of the land (or the sea)” – either WILD “products of the land” (e.g. wild animals) or “TAME” (or domesticated) “products of the land” – and that BOTH should be used wisely and sustainably for the benefit of people. Please take the trouble to understand why we have made such a statement.  We will help you to understand.
      Why don’t you become a member of the TGA – and learn what “sustainable-use” is all about.  We would make you feel very welcome.
      Here’s wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
      Ron Thomson. CEO-TGA


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